Against The Hype

movies, criticism and their pleasures

F***ed: Actress Peak Performance Barometer?

September 14, 2011 By: Colin Low Category: Picture Posts

A woman getting pounded into by a man oblivious to her distraction, turmoil, inner life: Any cinema that attends to such an image surely has an eye to that woman’s strengths and vulnerabilities in other ways that surprise and resonate.

Which of these performances do you most admire, or look forward to seeing? Do you know of others like them?

  • Melanie Lynskey in Heavenly Creatures (1994)
  • Julianne Moore in Safe (1995)
  • Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  • Nicole Kidman in Birth (2004)
  • Tang Wei in Lust, Caution (2007)

The Best Shot of Angels in America

August 12, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: Capsuled Thoughts

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. When that topmost shot appeared, it instantly triggered the latent Lust, Caution part of my brain. Not to suggest that Roy Cohn (Al Pacino) and Joe Pitt (Patrick Wilson) share an… acrobatic relationship like Mrs Mai and Mr Yi’s, of course, but they are quite similar in other ways:

The title Lust, Caution fits their situation aptly. In Angels in America‘s multi-protagonist narrative, Roy and Joe take the parts of conservative, anti-gay Republicans forced to face up to the realities of the people they’ve demonised: Roy contracts AIDS through one of his illicit, off-screen encounters, while Joe finds himself losing the battle against his desire. Playwright Tony Kushner, who adapted his own script for the screen, conjures a few other such doublings across political lines. By this point, Joe has fallen for and cohabited with his out gay co-worker Louis; both have spurned their lovers of a few years for each other. The spurned lovers, Joe’s wife Harper and Louis’ ex-boyfriend Prior, meet via some sort of arcane telepathic corridor, and acknowledge that they signed into their failed relationships mostly due to erotic attraction. And both Prior and Roy, stricken with AIDS, start having rather different visitations upon them of an afterlife-y sort.

They’ve made their choices about power. The framing says it all. (more…)

Photopost: Lust, Caution and Mahjong

March 01, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: Movies, Picture Posts

I kickstarted this blog on the fifteenth day of the last Chinese New Year with a review of the delightful Oriental-themed Kung Fu Panda. Today, on this blog’s first lunisolar anniversary, I have mahjong on the brain, having played many bouts of it in the earlier days of this festive season. To mark the occasion, let’s take a closer look at one of Lust, Caution‘s most crucial scenes, an exemplar of how the movie uses mahjong to encode meanings both among its characters and to the audience. Here, we are treated to the mutual seduction of the two leads, Mrs Mai (Tang Wei) and Mr Yi (Tony Leung), as well as Mrs Yi’s canny reactions to the same.